In 1862 this farmhouse was home to the widow Sarah Watt, her granddaughter, Mary Jane Haw, and a maid. It was a typical Hanover County plantation of several hundred acres with some 28 slaves who produced a modest income from grains, potatoes, and livestock. Around the house stood a kitchen, slave quarters, and other outbuildings. A series of roads, now abandoned, connected the Watt family to their neighbors and Richmond.
Their lives drastically changed on the morning of June 27, 1862. The Union commander selected the house for his temporary headquarters, forcing the family to leave. When Mary Jane returned after the battle, she found "the walls and roof were torn by shot and shell, the weatherboarding honeycombed by minie balls, and every pane of glass shattered." Inside, evidence of a field hospital was everywhere. "Now, from garret to cellar," she wrote, "there was scarcely a space of flooring as large as a man's hand that did not bear the dark purple stain of blood."